Astronaut Wally Schirra, a reporter once said, geared up for space flight with "the ease of preparing for a family picnic." The third American to orbit the earth and the fifth ever to fly into space, Shirra died today. He was 84.
"I'm having a ball up here drifting," Schirra, a fun-loving practical jokester, radioed down from his first flight, on Sigma 7 Mercury, in 1962. He later commanded the path breaking Gemini 6 mission—the first meeting of two spacecraft in orbit—and participated in Apollo Seven. That final Apollo mission helped lay the groundwork for NASA's trip to the moon—though Schirra never made it there himself.